Parents urged to focus on teens’ mental health as exams loom

Experts emphasise the importance of focusing on teens’ mental health ahead of exams. Picture: file

Experts emphasise the importance of focusing on teens’ mental health ahead of exams. Picture: file

Published Oct 27, 2023


With end-of-year exams approaching, many teenagers are struggling with stress.

According to Shaun Fuchs, founder and CEO of Centennial Schools, addressing mental health issues are vital for a child’s success in school and in life, and everything possible should be done to help young people dealing with such issues.

“Research has shown that one in five children and teenagers experience a mental health problem during their school years. These include stress, anxiety, bullying, family problems and depression,” he said

“It is important that we address these issues with our young people, particularly in South Africa where the stresses are so much higher. Schools are prime spaces where we can help our children.”

He said success was not only based on academic assistance, it was also about creating an ecosystem at school to help fragile children to cope with their mental health issues so they could succeed.

Centennial Schools had a wellness app, It’sOk, to help pupils, teachers and parents deal with mental health problems, Fuchs said.

“Our students are exceptionally digitally literate. It’sOk makes sense for them, creates a safe space, and enables our students to increase their emotional intelligence and mental well-being daily. It also provides teachers and parents with accurate data on how our children are doing so that the school can intervene if there are concerns.

“It is tough for students to admit their struggles. The app gives students a platform for self-expression and emotional education without them having to approach an adult,” Fuchs said.

Jonathan Hoffenberg, a social worker and manager of Parent and Community Empowerment and Support (Paces), also urged parents to turn their attention to the mental health and well-being of their teens as exams loom.

Hoffenberg said the pressure teenagers faced could feel overwhelming and often motivated teen suicide.

He said final exams, especially matric finals, are often viewed as an obstacle course children must overcome to move forward into adult life.

According to research, it is shown that two-thirds of adolescents experience levels of exam stress that mental health organisations would describe as worrying.

“Self-harm due to exam pressure is on the rise globally. A study carried out by the National Education Union in the UK in 2018 reported that 56% of young people have been self-harming or think of self-harming, with 4 in 5 learners saying the reason was related to school tests and exams. We need the role-players in our children’s lives to think seriously about the mental health of our teens and to take charge in helping them to deal with these pressures,” Hoffenberg said.

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